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Wednesday, September 28, 2011

9/28/2011 - Paradise enhanced

I've talked about El Santuario before. It's the little palapa bar where we had the Talk Like A Pirate Party and where we are now spending most afternoons. They've made Happy Hour two hours long so the beer is now cruiser-priced (rather than fancy hotel-priced) for a couple hours every afternoon and the least we can do is show our gratitude by pounding down a few.

I wish there were a string of Santuarios up and down the Baja coast. It's the kind of place that you expect to find everywhere when you're fantasizing about cruising but are actually fairly rare. There's a nice beach palapa bar/restaurant at Bahia Falsa way down almost to La Paz but it's not nearly as laid back at Santuario. There's also a palapa bar/restaurant in San Evaristo but it's so laid back that it never seems to really be open and, if it is, it's up in the air whether they'll have cold beer or not.

So what makes El Sauntario so special?

Well, the "No shoes, no shirt, no problem" attitude certainly doesn't hurt.

The overall funky coolness of the buildings are certainly an asset.

The beautiful surroundings, obviously.

And the fact that a roadrunner may go darting by is a definite plus.

All that stuff contributes to the overall appeal of Santuario. But what really makes the difference is the staff.

These guys (L-R: Alan, Roberto, David) make the place a true santuario. There is nothing they won't do for us to make us feel welcome. And everything they do, no matter how extracurricular it seems to us, is brushed off with a smile and a "Please, it is nothing."

Let's take yesterday for example.

The plan was developed on Sunday when Jack from s/v Miss Maude brought over some dorado to grill. Alan cooked up some vegetables to go with the fish, someone provided some tortillas, and then David went diving and brought back some clams to put on the grill (since we didn't have enough limons for ceviche). Everybody there shared an impromptu lunch. David, we're told, is quite a cook. He said that if we brought over some fish, tomatoes, onions, limons, etc, on Tuesday morning, he'd cook up some magic and we could all have a mini-feast when Happy Hour started at 2:00.

That sounded pretty good. Jay and Judy (s/v Wind Raven) went to the store for tomatoes and limons, Lulu and I went to the store for tortillas, onions, charcoal and charcoal starter, Mick (s/v Kashmir) contributed onions, tomatoes and tortillas, Lulu made a batch of cookies and I made a pot of beans. Jay and Jack spent Sunday evening, all day Monday, and most of the day on Tuesday fishing. Unfortunately, in spite of all their efforts, they came back fish-less.

Two o'clock rolled around and there we were with all the ingredients except fish. The BBQ grill had been put away and it was beginning to look like it was going to be a food-less afternoon. But David, undaunted, took one of the hotel guests, Michelle, and headed out into the bay on a kayak. They returned maybe 15 minutes later with a huge bounty of fresh chocolate clams (so-named for the color of their shell, not for the Hershey-ness of their flavor, thank goodness). He then got to work preparing them.

First he served up a platter of raw clams on the half shell. Squeeze a little limon on them, a dash of Maggi (sort of like soy sauce), and another dash of hot sauce. Absolutely delicious. I was too busy eating to even get a picture.

Next, he got busy making clam ceviche.

Everyone got their fill and it was excellent.

Four o'clock and the official end of Happy Hour was drawing near. However, Luis (aka "The Boss") had dropped by and, hearing it was Lulu's birthday, extended Happy Hour until 5:00. Outstanding!

That's the kind of thing that goes on here. We cruisers, being naturally cheap frugal, have made this our regular afternoon hangout and now feel pretty much like family. But the occasional hotel guests who wander this far down the beach also seem to love the friendly funkiness of Santuario. It's not long until the staff and the cruisers have made them feel like they're home as well. I don't know if Santuario will still be the same place it is a year from now or whether success will ruin it. I hope that it remains the same but, if not, maybe for once I'll be in the right place at the right time to be able to say, "You think it's good now? You should have seen it back in 2011."

Sunday, September 25, 2011

9/25/2011 - Trouble in Paradise

Long after we had gone back to the boat from the Talk Like A Pirate Party the other day, a few die-hard pirates stayed on, dancing and drinking into the night. Apparently, there was a bit of an altercation during those wee hours.

It seems that one of the pirates (cruisers) got fresh with Irena, Alan's wife. In case you don't remember, Alan is the employee of Wild Loreto that reminded me of my cousin Larry.

Alan and Irena

The story I'm told is that Alan tried diplomacy several times to get the cruiser to quit disrespecting his wife but to no avail. Finally they decided to go down to the beach to settle things. Only Alan came back. The cruiser was taking a "nap". Everyone present, I'm told, agreed that the cruiser certainly had it coming. I've also been told that even the cruiser now agrees with that.

However, Alan's boss got wind of it and Alan received a 2-day unpaid suspension as a result. Now we're hearing that his boss is thinking seriously about firing Alan. This is a guy who is a great asset to the organization. He's incredibly personable and helpful. Further, if we hadn't been having a party there, Alan and Irena would have been home instead of spending the night at the palapa for NO extra pay helping a bunch of gringo yachties have a good time. If he does get fired, he, his wife and his twin 2-year-old boys will likely have to move in order to find another job. A damn shame!

We cruisers, and tourists in general, need to remember how our actions may affect the local folks. The cruiser in question may feel remorse but that won't get Alan's job back. We're really hoping that management will do the right thing, maybe suspend Alan for a few more days or something, but not fire him. If he is fired, Judy from s/v Wind Raven suggested that the least this cruising community could do would be to pass the hat to help with moving expenses. I hope it doesn't come to that but, if it does, I really hope the community steps up.

9/25/2011 - Up the creek...

...with a broken paddle.

We were rowing back from shore the other afternoon, having returned the Terminator to John on Trick as they were headed back to Puerto Escondido. I'm merrily rowing along when *SNAP* the port oar just broke in two, Right at the oarlock where, of course, the greatest stress is. Lulu took the broken piece and used it as a paddle. I would row with one oar and then Lulu would correct our course with the paddle. Slow, but we got there. About a week ago, Mick from s/v Kashmir lost an oar sometime during the night. Now he had just one oar which wasn't doing him much good. We borrowed his remaining oar but the mismatch made rowing pretty difficult.

Nothing left to do but repair our own oars.

The repair was nothing Earth-shattering but it worked out well. We happened to have a couple of pieces of closet rod stock on the boat. It was bigger around than the interior diameter of the broken oar shaft so I had to plane it down to size.

Once it was small enough to just slip into the shaft, I put one end in and pinned it in place with some screws.

Then I slipped the other end over the protruding plug and screwed in in place.

And voila! we once again had a matched set.

The repair went so well that today, I cut the other oar apart at the stress point and inserted a wooden plug in it, too. Figured I'd head trouble off at the pass for once.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

9/20/2011 - Arrrrrrr ya scurvy dog!

That's right folks, Monday, September 19 was International Talk Like Pirate Day. And like the scurvy bunch of sea dogs that we are, the cruisers anchored at Ensenada Blanca used it as an excuse for a party. Members of the local fleet were in attendance as were some folks who drove down from Puerto Escondido and some who wandered up the beach from the hotel.

Our hosts were the crew from Wild Loreto who run El Santuario palapa bar as well as kayak trips, diving and snorkeling trips, etc. Alan, Roberto and David went out of their way to keep us all lubricated and happy.

David (L) and Alan (R). BTW, Alan reminds me SO much of my cousin Larry. Sam facial expressions, same mannerisms, says things the same way, etc. And, like Larry, Alan is a helluva nice guy.

Roberto with his novia, Lynne.

Roberto (R) and his boss, Luis, without whose cooperation the party could not have happened at El Santuario.

It was your basic cruiser beach party. Plenty of food donated by nearly everyone, lots to drink with special pricing, courtesy of Luis and Wild Loreto, and, of course, lots of pirates and dancing:

There was even a sand castle contest:

Dean from was elected the Queen of the Pirates:

And Ray was elected King:

PIRATES! Can't take them anywhere!

And I need to give a special mention to Diana who thought this thing up and took care of the negotiations with Wild Loreto and the Hotel to make it happen. Hopefully it'll become a yearly event and they'll use it as a model to throw more parties at El Santuario.

Thanks, Diane....

Sunday, September 18, 2011

9/18/2011 - what have we been doing?

Looks like my last blog was the one where we went scuba diving for the first time. Since then, Lulu has had 2 more successful dives, the first down to 76' and the last one down to 90'. I started out on the second dive but had problems with my mask and flippers and decided I really need new stuff before I dive again. My mask kept filling with water. This was sort of ironic since Terry had just showed us how to clear the water from our masks while underwater. The process worked fine but I found myself doing it almost continuously. The flippers we got with our snorkeling packages are short and fat and don't give a heck of a lot of drive. Then, to top it off, the strap on one of mine came completely off while I was 20-30 feet down and I had to just sort of clench my toes to keep the whole flipper from sliding off my foot. Our friend John managed to find the strap so I can at least use the flipper even though it's not really a very good one. Anyway, we definitely need to visit a dive shop in Loreto next time we have the opportunity.

On Lulu's second dive, she and John and Terry gathered some seafood for a feast on Terry's boat later that evening. On yesterday's dive, Terry took some video of her. If I can figure out how to snip a short piece out I'll see if I can attach it to a blog. Later.

We spent the better part of 2 days cleaning the topsides of the boat which had gotten decidedly grungy. Oh yeah, and I've been doing a lot of rowing lately since I haven't been able to find a new impeller for my outboard yet. I have 4 of them on order from the States and hopefully one of them will come down with a fellow cruiser sometime soon. In the meanwhile, John from "Trick" loaned me his spare outboard. It's an old 2 hp Suzuki that John's wife, Patricia has dubbed "The Terminator". Looks like hell but it works and sure beats rowing. I don't mind the rowing too much but sometimes it takes an awfully long time to get places.

Tomorrow is "International Talk Like A Pirate Day" and a party has been planned for the palapa bar here at Ensenada Blanca. BTW, the official name of the palapa bar is El Santuario (The Sanctuary). There's going to be a potluck, costume contest, pirate queen and king vote, volleyball, tug-o-war, etc, etc, etc. Should be fun and I should get a few good blog photos. The only fly in the ointment is that we're supposed to get north winds tomorrow and, what with Ensenada Blanca being wide open to the north, it could become a pretty bouncy anchorage. Not a huge deal if you're staying aboard or staying ashore, but running back and forth could be a little dicey. This is the main reason I'm borrowing The Terminator.

It's beginning to cool down, sort of. Let's see, today's Sunday so I guess it was Wednesday and Thursday nights, we actually had nice cool breezes. Where it usually only cools down to the high 80s at night, on those two nights it probably dropped to the low 80s. Lulu had to actually cover up with a sheet and I got up and put on a t-shirt on halfway through the night. However, the last 2 nights have been as warm as ever or at least close. But, there does seem to be just the slightest hint of cooler air occasionally these days. Just enough to give one hope. Lulu and I were commenting that this is probably the first time we've ever looked forward to winter. Sixty-five to seventy degree days followed by fifty-five degree nights sounds pretty good right about now. Hard to imagine getting up in the morning and putting on anything other than a swim suit but long pants and long-sleeve t-shirts actually appear to be in our future.

That's about it for what we're doing. Looking at e-mails from home, I see that Autumn is beginning to set in in the Pacific Northwest. We've always loved Autumn but it's always been sort of tainted but the knowledge that winter won't be far behind. And winter up there didn't mean just long pants and long-sleeve t-shirts. All in all, hot or not, I think we prefer it down here.

Hey, here are a few more photos of the beautiful Villa del Palmar Hotel that has been treating us so nicely.

View from the bar:

View of the bar:

The hotel and pool area:

Sunday, September 11, 2011

9/11/2011 - Move over, Mike Nelson

Today certainly didn't turn out like we thought it would. Our plan was to go to the tienda for a few things, maybe enjoy happy hour at the palapa and call it good. However, that was before Terry called.

Terry is a cruiser (s/v Manta) who has been down here since the early 80s. He's an avid diver and frequently takes people out on diving excursion as well as doing some instructing. He's been sharing the Ensenada Blanca anchorage with us for the last week or so. He called us on the VHF radio this morning about 9:30 and wanted to know if we'd like to go out on a dive. I told him that our experience so far consisted solely of snorkeling. He said that wouldn't be a problem. We were just to bring our masks, flippers and snorkels and we'd head out about 10:30. We jumped at the chance. We were both a little bit nervous about it but Terry said we'd start off in about 3' of water, then move to 5' when we were comfortable and so on. We decided that you just have to jump when chances like this come along lest they never come along again. We told him we'd be there.

Once we got Terry's dinghy loaded up we headed out to Isla Las Tijeras, a mile or so north of our anchorage.

Once we got there, Terry told us how easy scuba diving was. I said that was good because less than a week ago I was still using a life vest when I snorkeled. This gave him pause but he pointed to the shore and asked, "Can you swim well enough to reach the shore?" I assured him that I could and he said "No problem." Terry gave us a quick lesson in how the regulators worked. Then we donned our masks and flippers and went over the side. He handed us down our scuba tanks and we schlepped them to shallower water where he could help us put them on. There was a considerable surge that made standing in one place very difficult but we eventually got our gear on and adjusted.

The next step was just to get under the water and breathe to get used to the fact that we would actually be able to breathe underwater. Except for Lulu having trouble getting her mask to fit without leaking, this step went pretty well. It was pretty amazing to be able to actually breathe underwater. It wasn't completely new since we'd been able to breathe underwater (to a point) with snorkels. But the scuba gear sounded different, particularly when exhaling, and that took a couple of seconds to get used to.

Comfortable with that step, we moved into deeper water, maybe five feet or so. Terry said to just go down to the bottom and grab a rock to help hold us down and just get used to breathing and being underwater. This was a lot harder than it sounded. It was all I could do to get down and almost impossible to stay down. My gear included a buoyancy compensator that still had some air in it which wasn't helping at all. Terry released the air and then found some rocks to put in the pocket of my vest. Lulu was still having mask problems but she kept doggedly readjusting and trying again.

We then moved into a little deeper water, maybe 8' or so. Terry motioned to us to take a spot on a rock and watch. He then opened a scallop and laid it on the rocks to attract the fish. And attract fish it did! First little small colorful ones and eventually some larger ones: two different kinds of parrot fish, some trigger fish, and numerous others who's names I have no idea of.

We moved to deeper water (14') and saw a small moray eel which Terry fed with some pieces of scallop. As we proceeded along, I spotted a much larger moray sticking his head out from beneath a rock. I made no attempt to feed him, being somewhat protective of my fingers.

Gliding through the water was incredible. It was almost like flying. The weight Terry added to my vest made me almost neutral on the buoyancy scale. If I stopped and let some air out of my lungs, I could slowly sink. But by inflating my lungs a little more, I could rise up and swim along at whatever level I needed to. It was just like Sea Hunt except not in black and white. It really was awesome.

We continued on following Terry into gradually deeper water. We saw some more morays and, at one point,Terry revealed a scorpion fish to me. That was one well-camouflaged fish! He pointed him out and I didn't see anything but rock until Terry nudged it a little with his dive knife at which point the "rock" exploded into movement and swam away at high speed. They're very venomous and even a very small prick can cause real problems. Too bad they're so darn hard to spot.

Our ultimate depth was 39'. At this point we stopped going deeper because we'd reached the thermocline where the water started getting noticeably cooler. Terry would be alright as he had a wetsuit on but Lulu and I just had swimming suits. She had a long sleeve Lycra dive skin on top but I just had a wet t-shirt. It wasn't uncomfortably cold but it would have been if we'd stayed at that depth too long.

As we started meandering our way back towards shallower water, Lulu and I both got the opportunity to feed a small moray. Good thing we had gloves on as I felt him hit my finger a little when he took the proffered scallop. Eventually we found ourselves back in 4'-5' water alongside the dinghy. We still had enough air in our tanks to keep diving but we were both pretty pooped. We'd been down for 47 minutes.

Terry complimented us on how little air we used. Said we were cheap dates. He also especially complimented Lulu on her tenacity. In spite of her ill-fitting mask and all the trouble it caused, she just kept returning to the surface to make adjustments as needed and then rejoining us down below. He figured she would have given up long ago. He doesn't know Lulu very well. As for myself, I took to scuba diving WAY better than I ever thought I would. It's amazing how knowing that you can breathe underwater can change your whole view.

Will we buy scuba gear? I doubt it. Takes up a lot of room which we just don't have. Will we jump at the next opportunity to go scuba diving. Yer damn right we will!

Next trip to Loreto: new mask for Lulu and better fins for both of us.

Our Christmas present to ourselves this Christmas: an underwater camera.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

9/10/2011 - Wipe-out!

Yesterday was a little more eventful than most of our days which revolve around snorkeling and reading. Yesterday the wind piped up from the NE and with it, the seas. The anchorage was fairly uncomfortable most of the day what with all the rolling and pitching going on. Good day to stay home and read, which I mostly did. Lulu, on the other hand, had a headache and then the constant rolling tended to upset her stomach enough that the only thing she wanted to do was lie in bed. Which was fine since we weren't doing anything anyway. Mike and Melissa on S/V Tortue finally threw in the towel and headed back to Puerto Escondido but the rest of the fleet stuck it out.

A little after 1:00 PM, Lulu emerged and decided that maybe if she just got in the water and lazed around she'd feel a little better so over the side she went. It did seem to help a little and about 1:30 she had an idea: she'd leisurely swim to shore and I'd take the dinghy over and we'd enjoy happy hour at the palapa.

Sounded like a plan to me although the seas were a wee bit rough, but, what the heck. She set out and I loaded up a backpack with various things we might need, launched the dinghy and followed her. I reached the shore a little bit before here and, what was usually a flat calm beach was now a surf landing. Oh, a minor surf landing as those things go, but a surf landing nevertheless. The problem is that the water is SO shallow that you have to cut your motor well before landing. This wasn't all that bad as each successive wave pushed the dink just a little further on shore. I got out and pulled it up out of the surf line, sunk a bucket in the sand for an anchor and called it good. Wasn't sure what time the tides were but the wide expanse of wet sand that the surf was no longer reaching told me that the tide was probably going out. That'd mean it would be harder to drag the dinghy back out but at least the breaking waves wouldn't fill it with water. At least that's what I thought.

The palapa seems to be sort of a well-kept secret and, sure enough, it was just us and Roberto, the guy who runs it.

We put out a radio call to the Ensenada Blanca fleet to get off their rolly boats and come enjoy happy hour with us but we got no responses. After awhile we saw Jay and Judy's dinghy on its way over but it turned out they were just parking there and walking to the tienda. We had a very pleasant afternoon shooting the breeze with Roberto, finding out what kind of music he likes (I'm making him a bunch of CDs today) and about his girlfriend who, as luck would have it, we got to meet a little later when she stopped by with some customers from the hotel.

On their way back from the store, Jay and Judy stopped in and we continued our visit. Another staff member, David, came by and had a big cabrilla in a bag. Next thing we knew, he was making us up a batch of ceviche from it. So we sat around eating fresh ceviche and shooting the breeze. No payment was asked for or expected for the ceviche. David was just sharing.

The palapa closes at 5:00 because the employees from all of the various parts of the hotel catch a bus that takes them all home and the bus comes by at 5:30. If they miss it, they're just out of luck until the end of the next shift change. So, a little before 5:00, we paid up and headed out.

Turns out that my surf-reading skills are somewhat lacking. The tide wasn't going out, it was coming in! And that meant the the waves had been splashing on my transom and filling the dinghy with water. Must have been at least 5 or 6 gallons of water in it. No matter, we turned her around and started walking her through the surf out to where it was deep enough to start the motor. In retrospect, we should have just walked all the way out beyond the surf line. After all, it was only a foot or two deep. But we didn't. Instead, as soon as we were deep enough to lower the motor, I did and then I jumped in. Lulu gave one more shove and the she jumped in. The rest is somewhat of a blur. I don't know whether or not I actually started the motor. What I do remember is that Lulu was in her regular spot on the starboard side to balance my weight on the port side. Then, I guess a wave must have hit us from the side or something because all I remember is Lulu was suddenly on the port side and our combined weight along with the wave action tipped the dinghy over on its side, filling it with water in the process. We jumped out, righted the dink and then tried to push her back ashore so we could bail her out and start again. But the dinghy was quite full and the surf wasn't helping things any. We managed to get the boat on the beach but not high enough to bail effectively. Every time I'd get 3 or 4 bucketfuls out, the next wave would deposit 5 or 6 new bucketfuls.

Jay and Judy had managed to get launched okay but they also swamped their boat, although not as bad as we did. They came back ashore to empty it, I guess, and then came over and helped us out. Together we managed to turn the dinghy on its side and empty most of the water, at least enough so we had a fighting chance. We relaunched, only this time I had the oars all set and ready to go. We rowed through the surf line until we were past the breakers and then were able to start the motor and head back out. Jay and Judy also had a successful re-launching and got back to Wind Raven just fine.

The wind continued to blow like crazy all night but, fortunately, it changed directions 180 degrees so that there were absolutely no seas associated with it. The wind was coming from onshore and the bottom is so shallow for such a long way that there just wasn't much water to build up and waves. The wind howling outside and blowing down through our open forward hatch made for a very comfortable night's sleep with no need for fans.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

9/7/2011 - Snorkeling

Yesterday we joined the crews of sailing vessels Trick, Merilon, Trinity, and Kashmir on a little snorkeling trip.  We dinghied over to an off-lying rock that looked promising.  Once geared up, it was over the side to start exploring among the rocks at the base of the big rock.  It was pretty cool.  The water temperature was warm enough so that getting chilled wasn't even a remote possibility.  We saw lots of Damsel Fish, some Parrot Fish, and lots of smaller fish that we couldn't identify.  John & Patricia from s/v Trick knew the names of lots of them and told us but, of course, I promptly forgot most of what we were told.  Mick from Kashmir saw a barracuda shortly after entering the water.  We probably hung around this site for a couple of hours.

After awhile we decided to move on.  As we were crossing the channel between the rock and the mainland we all spotted something floating in the water and decided to check it out.  As we got closer, it became obvious that it was a sea turtle.  Our experience with turtles thus far is that they dive as soon as you get very near them. But this one was behaving differently.  He/she (let's just call her "she" from now on) let us approach right alongside.  It was hard to tell whether or not she was alive.  What little movement we saw could have been attributed to wave action.  But still, there seemed to be the occasional flipper movement that made us think that maybe she was alive after all.  Finally, John reached over and lifted the front of her shell to get her head out of the water in case she was unable to get a good breath under her own steam.  At this point it was evident that she was definitely alive but very weak.  Richard from Trinity hopped in the water and got some close-up photos.  Finally, she seemed to be a little stronger and John released her.  She swam off under her own power, if somewhat weakly.

Richard, Mick and Mike proceeded back to their boats and John, Patricia, Lulu and I went on to snorkel on another reef.  Lots more fish here.  It was very cool to be surrounded by a school of Sargeant Majors who were definitely more curious than cautious.  Lulu even spotted two small octopuses.  We probably hung around here for about an hour.  I surfaced near the dinghy at one point and saw Richard returning in his dinghy.  "Where's John?" he yelled.  I pointed him out and Richard yelled "We have to go back to the turtle!".  Seems he'd downloaded his photos back a the boat and, upon inspection saw a hunk of fishing net wrapped around one of the turtle's rear flippers.  None of us could see the net when we were alongside her but it showed up clearly in Richard's photos.  Richard headed off in search of the turtle and we all got back aboard the dinghy and, after shedding our gear, followed him.

Amazingly, Richard actually found her again.  By the time we got there he had cut the netting loose.  She still wasn't looking too chipper though.  John repeated his "hold her head out of the water" routine and eventually she again seemed a little stronger. He released her and again she swam off under her own steam, if somewhat weakly.  We wished her well although I don't think any of us have an awful lot of hope that she'll survive very long as she seemed very weak.

Richard headed back to Trinity and we headed to a little indent in the shoreline to have some chips and something to drink and visit for awhile.  Eventually it was time to head back to our boats which we did with plans to get together for another snorkel tomorrow.

It was a picture-perfect day.  Sorry there aren't any pictures to prove it.

9/5/2011 - We actually moved!

Note:  This blog was originally written on 9/6/11 and included photos.  But, the wifi connection we can access from our anchorage without the external antenna which we lost in the chubasco, blocks any URL that includes the word "blog".  This includes "blogspot", "blogger", etc.  So, until my new antenna arrives from the States or I remember to take the computer ashore to the hotel or over to Wind Raven to use their wifi antenna, you'll just have to live w/o pictures.  Sorry. But, on with the show.  Here's the original blog from 9/5/2011:

9/5/2011 - We actually moved

Yesterday we went to the Sunday market in Loreto with friends Ed and Cindy on s/v Tequila Mockingbird. We'd heard a lot about the market and had been wanting to go but, unless you score a ride pretty early in the day, you're pretty much out of luck. We ran into Ed and Cindy the day before and were swapping stories. We first ran into them in Timbabiche a few months ago. We told them we were planning on leaving Puerto Escondido today (Saturday). They said that was too bad as they were planning on heading in to the market on Sunday and we were welcome to come along. This is when it's really nice to be retired. I said, "Well, there's no reason we actually have to leave on Saturday." So, we decided to postpone our departure so we could check out the market.

The market is sort of a farmers' market and flea market rolled into one. It's held every Sunday morning in what is usually a huge empty lot. There are numerous stands selling fresh produce, a meat market, a couple of places selling tamales, and a bunch of places selling what-have-you. I took my camera along but, as is my wont, forgot to actually take any pictures.

We bought a bunch of produce: potatoes, carrots, avocados, mangos, cabbage, peppers, limons, tomatoes, grapefruit, etc. The prices were great. We came back with a bunch of bulging bags and spent maybe 200 pesos (~$16.00 US). After the market, we had breakfast at Cafe Ole and then hit El Pescador supermarket for anything else we needed. Ed and Cindy drove us right up to the dinghy dock to unload our booty.

Back onboard before noon, Lulu started cleaning and stowing the groceries and I fired up the engine. Once the engine was warmed up, we dropped the mooring and motored out of the waiting room at Puerto Escondido.

Things have been getting sort of uncomfortable at PE the last couple of weeks. There's a new manager and he seems to be trying to prove that he's the boss or something. First was the stupidly high price increase. That's what ultimately forced us off the mooring ball and out into the Waiting Room. Then, it seemed like every day there was some new rule. One of the standard afternoon pastimes was to buy a beer at Pedro's Tienda and then sit outside Ray & Jaime's office and shoot the breeze. Thursday afternoon, we were informed by one of the workers (not by management itself, of course) that we could no longer drink beer in front to the office. By the next afternoon, the tables and chairs had been removed so we couldn't even sit there. It just seemed that the new manager was bound and determined to force the cruising gringos out of Puerto Escondido. Never mind that we're the bulk of the income. You have to give him credit, though. If forcing us all out is his goal, he's well on his way to succeeding. Anyway, even though we're paid up until the end of September in the Waiting Room, we decided to split.

We'd been hearing stories about Ensenada Blanca (Bahia Candaleros). There is a fancy new hotel there that is trying to sell timeshares. Well, if it's completely vacant, it's hard to look attractive to the potential buyers that they bus in from Loreto. Consequently, they're being very friendly to cruisers right now.

Having a few picturesque sailboats in the harbor in front of the hotel can't hurt, right? Besides that, they come out in a kayak every morning and bring us complimentary coffee and pastries. Further, if you go in and register your boat, they give you a wrist band that allows you, for the price of a drink or two, to use the swimming pools (one of which is chilled) and just generally hang around the hotel. So, let's see... Puerto Escondido where they are trying to drive us out, or Ensenada Blanca where they seem to actually want our patronage. Hmmmmm.... Tough choice.

We dropped the anchor at Ensenada Blanca Sunday afternoon about 2:30. Our friends Jay and Judy on s/v Wind Raven were already here. Jay had caught a nice Rooster Fish and gave us a couple of big chunks of it for dinner.

I cooked some spuds on the BBQ grill and then grilled the fish. Served it all with some sliced tomatoes from the Sunday market. A fine repast. We never did get ashore on Sunday.

Today (Monday), I rode to shore with Jay to check out the little tienda and get a few supplies that we didn't get in Loreto yesterday. Later, we joined the crews of most of the other boats anchored here (all of whom we had met in Puerto Escondido) along with Ray and Diana who drove down from PE. We all met ashore at a little palapa bar on the beach.  

Diana is trying to set up a party for cruisers to celebrate International Talk Like A Pirate Day on September 19th. We spent the afternoon in the palapa drinking beer and swapping lies.
The palapa closes at 5:00 so we all dinghied back to our respective homes (well, Lulu swam back). Lulu had made some chilorio/creamcheese dip so we had chips and dip and a salad consisting of avocados and tomatoes with basalmic vinegar, salt and pepper.

So, here we are. Tomorrow we're going out to an adjacent rock and doing some snorkeling with John and Patricia from s/v Trick and probably some others as well. One of these days we'll have to go in and use the hotel pool just to find out how good a chilled pool can feel.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

9/1/2011 - Another trip to town

Yesterday we decided to go into Loreto in the afternoon. We chose Wednesday afternoon specifically so we could have some of the excellent baked chocolate clams served at Augie's during happy hour. We also needed to get some cash and a few supplies. We had kind of decided to take a cab in and back until we found out what the current fares were: somewhere between 600 and 700 pesos round trip. That's $48 - $56 (USD). Crazy! The cabbies, like many other Mexican businessmen have this very unfamiliar (to norteamericanos) approach to business. That is, when business is down, you make up for it by raising your prices. The idea, I guess, is to make more money off fewer customers. So, since this is not tourist season, there are fewer people needing taxis so the fares go up. Brilliant, eh? We decided to hitchhike in and ride the evening bus back.

We shouldered our packs and got started on the 25 minute walk out to the highway. We hadn't gone 50 yards when Debby, a fellow cruiser who has a place in nearby Juncalito, stopped and gave us a ride as she's done many times before. After a quick stop at Fernando's tienda to get a couple of bottles of water, she dropped us off at the highway. Right after we got out, a semi came whizzing by from the south. We didn't even bother sticking our thumbs out for him, knowing that it was very unlikely that he'd stop anyway. So we patiently waited. After 15 minutes, that semi was still the ONLY vehicle we had seen coming from the south. We knew there was some construction going on down the road and figured that soon the northbound traffic would be let loose and we'd get plenty of chances for a ride. We waited another 5 or 10 minutes without seeing a single vehicle headed north. We were just about ready to throw in the towel and skip the trip for today when a water tanker truck came lumbering out from behind the electricity substation across the highway. The driver made a wide turn that put him partway on the northbound shoulder and motioned to us asking if we wanted a ride. DAMN STRAIGHT WE WANT A RIDE! We crowded into the cab and he started grinding gears and heading to Loreto.

Twenty minutes later or so, the driver dropped us off in front of a grocery store that we wanted to check out. We thanked him and headed inside to see what they carried. Ultimately, we didn't buy anything there but we were in a good spot as we needed to walk by the bus depot to check what time the southbound buses ran. After determining that our best best for a bus was at 6:55 PM (if we missed that one, the next one wouldn't be until 11:00 PM), we tried to hit a couple of ferreterias (hardware stores) in search of string for the string shopping bag that Lulu is crocheting. Unfortunately, it was siesta time and the ferreterias wouldn't re-open until 4:00 PM.

Next stop was the Banamex bank to get some cash. We had been having difficulties with Lulu's ATM card so we decided to try it first. It was a new card that had been activated but had yet to be used successfully. We inserted her card and entered the PIN. Punched in what we wanted to do and how much cash we wanted. The machine thought a minute and then told us that her account did not exist. This is what happened before. Looks like we need to call Wells Fargo. No matter, I plugged my card in and punched all the appropriate buttons. The machine mulled it over for a few seconds and then informed me that my account didn't exist either. WTF? OK, no big deal, we'll just try a different bank. Had a problem once in La Paz and just going to a different bank did the trick.

On our way to the other bank, we passed the modatela (fabric store) where we tried again to get string. After finally figuring out the word for string (mecate), we determined that, while they did have string, they didn't have any of the size Lulu wanted. Oh well, next stop, the bank. But first, let's stop at El Pescador, the largest supermarket in Loreto. We got some cheese, Gatorade powder, and a few canned goods. OK, now to the bank. But wait! We forgot to get the fabric Lulu wanted for making a new bedsheet. OK, back to the modatela and another exercise in dealing with the language barrier. We finally did get the fabric although it wasn't really what she wanted. But, when choices are limited, you get as close as you can. We also scored a scrap of thin red nylon that we can use to repair the frazzled outside edge of our Mexican courtesy flag.

OK, now to the bank.

We got down to the Bancomer and, when it was out turn, went in to the ATM booth. Plug in the card, punch in the PIN, describe the transaction and wait. This time the machine told us that it couldn't complete the transaction and we'd have to contact our bank. WHAT? Maybe if I try for a smaller amount. Same results. Oh, this is definitely NOT good. We need to call Wells Fargo and soon. We walked over to a public phone to try to figure out how to make a call to the States. First we'd have to buy a phone card. I really didn't want to get cut off mid-way through a conversation with the bank and so, was very wary about using a pay phone with instructions that I couldn't really understand. And then it came to me: AUGIE'S! Augie's Bar has a computer set up with a MagicJack and allows customers to make phone calls to the States since it costs almost nothing. OK, we're off to Augie's.

We walked into Augie's air conditioned bar and basked for a few minutes in the refrigerated air. Ahhhhhhh......... Then we ordered a couple of micheladas and asked to use the phone. "Sí, claro." MagicJack is pretty cool as you use an actual phone so it's not quite like using Skype. I dialed Wells Fargo's number from the back of the card and went through all the automated menu crap until I finally got to the point where I could talk to a human. When he answered I explained that we were in Mexico and our debit cards had been turned down at 2 different ATMs.

"Were you trying to get a cash advance from your credit card?"

No, I was trying to take cash from my checking account with my debit card.

"Are you sure you didn't maybe mix the cards up?"

No, I'm sure I got the right card.

"Because it shows here that 30 minutes ago someone tried to get a cash advance of $XXX.XX dollars from your credit card."

Huh? Oh, WAIT A MINUTE! Geez! I DID try to use the wrong card! Look, this other one says right on it "Debit Card". What a dummy!

"That's OK, I'll just remove the restriction that your previous attempts put on your credit card so it's still useable. Is there anything else I can help you with today?"

No, thanks, you've been very helpful.

WHEW! That's all the problem was. This explains Lulu's problem as well as the credit card is the only one she had in her pocket so it's the only one she's tried. We left Augie's, went back to Bancomer, had a successful ATM transaction, finished our shopping and hoofed it back to Augie's for happy hour.

At Augie's we saw pretty much the same people that we always see there at happy hour. Marv was still fretting and stewing about his Mexican cell phone, just like he was when we were there 3 weeks ago. The clams and micheladas were excellent and we got into a conversation with a guy sitting next to us at the bar drinking cranberry juice. Jim is from Washington and has a home here in Loreto (well, Nópolo, actually). He comes down every few months to check on things. We talked a lot about Puerto Escondido which, as a businessman, drives him absolutely crazy. Here sits this veritable gold mine and, not only won't the Mexicans develop it, but they make it next to impossible for anyone else to develop it either. Anyway, ultimately, Jim offered to give us a lift back to the marina which we gladly accepted.

We were back on the boat by 7:00 or so. Would have been there sooner except that the outboard ran out of gas shortly after leaving the dinghy dock (could have sworn there was plenty of gas), and I had to row the rest of the way. After a dinner of chips and salsa followed by chips and a dip made of chilorio, crema and mayonnaise, we settled into our regular evening routine.